Friday, March 14, 2014

Surfing the Human Wave: James Young's An Unproven Concept

First off, let's begin with a short video presentation:

video

Many, many apologies. As I said, I was dared. But now that we've dropped a hint about the premise of An Unproven Concept, let's move forward with the actual review. Concept retells the story told in Young's earlier novella, Ride of the Late Rain (which I reviewed last month), but it does so from two completely different perspectives. On the one hand, we hear from the crew of the doomed civilian starliner (somewhat obviously named the Titanic); on the other hand, we hear from the crew of the military carrier that is sent to attempt a rescue. Alas, we don't hear from the aliens who attack the Titanic, which, for me, is one of this novel's two downsides.

My primary critique regarding this book, however, involves the pacing. As I've noted in the past, military science fiction is one of my favorite genres. I grew up a Navy brat, so I know - and love - the culture; curling up with a military science fiction novel is basically curling up with a book about My People. I will admit, though, that at times, mil-sci-fi can get lost in discussions of weapons and tactics and lose the thread of the story -- and this is precisely what happens about halfway through Concept during the Constitution's extensive battle exercise, which felt more like unnecessary padding than like a critical plot component.

Still, the above criticism aside, Concept is a fun read once the story gets going. Again, Young's style is engaging and accessible, and the heroes are all basically admirable. I also appreciate that the plot's resolution is neither easy nor bloodless. Young is being entirely truthful when he advertises Concept as a story for those who "like their science fiction without hero shields and their protagonists mortal."  Overall, if you like hardcore space battles with high body counts, definitely give this novel a shot!

Final Verdict: Recommended

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